Odd Man Out

I have known that I wanted to study abroad from early on in my high school career. When I was a freshman in college, I started researching every program Auburn University had available. I had one specific criterion when it came to finding the right program. I wanted to study abroad for an entire semester. I wanted to be fully immersed in the culture and country I was studying in, and I felt this wasn’t possible to do in just a few weeks. So when I was introduced to the Joseph S. Bruno program, I found it had the most to offer with what I was looking for in my abroad experience. There was just one catch. This program consisted of predominantly female students. 

With this program being in the College of Human Sciences, that did not come as a surprise to me. I was told that there was one other male who signed up for the spring 2023 semester program. If I signed up, the total number of students would be two males and sixteen females. Now, most men would be jumping at the thought of spending a whole semester abroad by being one of those two males; don’t get me wrong I was, but back at Auburn I am involved in a fraternity where the majority of my surroundings are male-dominated. So I knew that this drastic change in my living situation could come with its own set of challenges. So naturally, I was a little wary about spending a whole semester here. I thought, maybe I could find a program that is more similar to my lifestyle back in Auburn or find a program with an even mix of men to women. Ultimately I decided that this program would be one of the best ways to step out of my comfort zone, learn new things about my fellow students, learn new things about myself, and see the world while doing it. 

Once I fully committed to the program I had a million thoughts going through my head. Of course, I had some preconceived views about what it’d be like living here with the majority of women. The typical girl talk, listening to pop music, the constant social media posts, and the countless cappuccinos ordered at the local bars are all things I knew might be included in my everyday life abroad. But since living here, I’ve discovered things that I could’ve never predicted. For example, on Valentine’s Day, I walked into the classroom like it was any other normal day with the program and was met with a sea of red and pink outfits in celebration of the holiday. I did not get the memo. I was quickly told that we would be taking a picture and I must change what I was wearing immediately, to follow the color scheme. So naturally, I did. Or the fact that the amount of salads I have seen made here is absurd. Don’t get me wrong I love a good salad, but I will never understand how someone can survive the day just off of a few hundred calories of fruits and vegetables. Another example is our similarities in humor. Whether it’s talking about our favorite comedians or egging a joke on way longer than it should be, these girls love to laugh and have a great time, and that is something that anyone couldn’t pass up on. 

Throughout my time living in the minority, I’ve found that these women are some of the sweetest, most thoughtful, and most genuine people I’ve met. From someone doing the dishes after a long day of school work even though they aren’t assigned to the task, decorating the classroom to make it a more vibrant and lively place to be, or writing a personal Valentine’s Day card to everyone in the program, these women each semester are the ones keeping this special place and program alive. If anyone is hesitant about doing a program like this or simply stepping out of their comfort zone from everyday life, my advice for you is to do it. You might just find that the people you’d least expect to have anything in common with are the ones with the most similarities, and if you’re lucky, you may make a few life-long relationships along the way. 

From halfway around the globe,

  • Michael Hardin
Trip to the Caserta Royal Palace Gardens